paulr - I forgot to thank you for stating your view - thanks.
Actually, barbaric was your word via Milan Kundera's analysis of Stravinsky. And I do find it barbaric - not that it is primitive or unsophisticated in quality, as you have certainly pointed out - it is not. I find it barbaric in it's marked lack of restraint.
And it sounds like we both agree that Witkin has crossed the ethical line in the sand. The only difference is that I am willing to judge him negatively, while you are refuse to do so.
As far as titillation - prehaps that was the wrong word. I was trying to infer the basal stimulation that the photos create - and in my mind a cheap, basal stimulation, hence my use of "titillation". Perhaps "sensationalism" is what I should have used - and I mean sensational in the negative way. I understand that people are interested in the macabre - seems to me that it is a tremendously large part of the intrigue of Witkin's work. We are unaccustomed to not only viewing the deceased, but we are as a society are abborant to taking the extra steps that Witkin does and therefore the photos are even more shocking and therefore more sensational.
"yeah, but so what, I still hate it and I still think it's wrong."
It's not that I "hate" it. I really don't think I do "hate". I just think it is ethically wrong that it was made - I think a LOT of really poor decisions were made by Witkin during the process of making these photos. And I'm also suspicious of his motives in making them. And that makes me not respect the work.
You say you are not outraged about the use of the cadavers - that's certainly obvious. And you know, I don't think that cadavers should never be used for anything. I do think that there are good uses from them - educational and scientific uses. I've been in a human anatomy class and seen a cadaver being disected in order to better the lives of the members of our society.
But there are two parts of that educational and scientific access that I suspect that Witkin did not adher to - consent by the individual and treating the remains with respect. I'm sure you'll say that artistic works should be included in there, but I don't think we should go there.
"Which is another way of saying that, whether I like the work or not, whether I'm offended by the work or not, I can't help but recognize that there is something of substance there."
We should not really be thinking about you, but about the victems of his works.
"Cruelty tends to bother me more than offending people's beliefs."
As well it should. But when do you decide to speak out against someone's cruelty instead of supporting it by claiming the abuse was worth it, as it was for artistic endeavour? And why do you not speak out about the cruelty here? Because the subjects are dead? Certainly some people are cruel to dead individuals, and we should speak out against it.
I'm waiting for the art history student looking for a thesis to decide that they will go and find the families of Witkin's subjects and record first-hand what kind of compensation they were give, whether permission was even given, and what they think of the photos, and whether they actually agreed to have these things done to there deceased relatives..